An Iraqi newspaper reporter recently revealed that most Iraqis believe anyone who is captured by Coalition Forces and sent to Camp Bucca will never be seen again; they are considered dead.
Every month approximately 12,000 Iraqi visitors travel from all over the country to Camp Bucca, the quiet forward operating base along the Kuwait border near the port city of Um Qasr, Iraqâ€™s southern most city.
In addition to the 12,000 visitors that actually walk through the gates of Camp Bucca, another nearly 500 visits between internees and their families happen every month via video teleconference with the facility in Baghdad, Camp Cropper. The VTC visitation is offered for those families who are unable to make the trip to Um Qasr, but can make it to Baghdad. There are a little over 500 cell phone calls made by internees to their families per month from their interment compounds at Camp Bucca.
With all of this communication occurring in and around Camp Bucca, how does the myth of this place being so evil and foreboding persist? It may be impossible to unravel the mysteries of the Iraqi rumor lines, but below are facts to correct the misinformation, â€œmyth-bustingâ€ if you will.
The following are a few of the myths that surround detention operations, along with the correct information:
â€¢ MYTH: Detainees are being brainwashed by the Americans.
o FACT: At the two Coalition detention facilities, all of the education, vocational, and Islamic Discussion Programs are led by Iraqi trained and certified teachers, social workers, and clerics. When these sessions occur the only Coalition staff present are the guards, and their presence is for the protection of the staff and not for interaction with the detainees, classes or discussions.
â€¢ MYTH: Detainees are held for years without being told why they are in custody.
o FACT: When someone is captured they go through a process of continuous evaluations and reviews to determine whether or not they pose an imperative threat to the people of Iraq, the Government of Iraq, or any security forces. At multiple points in this process, the captured person is advised in detail why they are in custody. This process occurs long before the person leaves the region of Iraq in which they were captured and before they are deemed an official detainee.
â€¢ MYTH: All detainees are extremely bad men who do not care about Iraq.
o FACT: Many of the internees are indeed very dangerous and have no loyalty to Iraq or its people. However, a large number of those detained are good Iraqis who made terrible mistakes in judgment or were severely misled by extremists set on destroying the hard earned gains made in this country. A significant number of the internees voluntarily participate in education and vocational classes in order to better themselves for their own brighter future and for their role in the future of Iraq. Many voluntarily join in Islamic Discussion Programs with Iraqi clerics and social workers in order to enhance their understanding of their religion and how their actions either match or contradict its teachings.
â€¢ MYTH: Americans are not following Iraqi law in the detention of its citizens.
o FACT: Those in coalition detention have been deemed an imperative threat to the citizens of Iraq, the Government of Iraq, and those security forces that are working to ensure peace and stability. Those captured who have been identified as having broken the law, are turned over to the Government of Iraq and processed according to Iraqi Law. Coalition Forces detain persons based on threat and the Government of Iraq imprisons based on Iraqi law. Basically, Coalition Forces hold detainees and the Government of Iraq holds prisoners and inmates.
â€¢ MYTH: The Americans have too many detainees for them to receive proper medical treatment.
o FACT: The team of Coalition doctors, nurses, and medics run an extremely efficient program of care that provides coverage for not only the internees, but also the service members and civilian staff. The doctors divide their workload based on the need in the compounds, and the legion of medics and Iraqi Medical Officers (IMOs) are available in every internment compound around the clock.
Detention operations touch nearly every Iraqi citizen. It is of vital importance that as often as these myths are discovered, every effort is made to answer their charges.
No nation in the history of modern warfare has ever attempted detention operations in the manner in which Coalition Forces have, with the amount of dedicated manpower and resources seen in Iraq.
Posts Tagged ‘detainees’
More than 10,000 detainees have been released from Coalition detention facilities in Iraq this year, since implementation of programs designed to better prepare detainees for reintegration into society and to reduce recidivism.
“A recent innovation is to have a social worker and an Islamic cleric counsel detainees before they go before their first Multi-National Forces Review Committee (MNFRC)”, said Rear Adm. Garland Wright, commander of Task Force 134 Detainee Operations in Baghdad. “Also, last February we started having officers from the Multi-National Corps-Iraq division or capturing unit sit on our MNFRC boards.”
MNFRC Boards were instituted last August as part of several agreements Multi-National Force – Iraq has with the Government of Iraq regarding detainee operations. After an individual is detained, his or her case is heard by the MNFRC board within six months of being detained.
TF 134 also has instituted a number of religious, educational, and vocational programs since 2007 to enhance its reconciliation programs. According to Wright, “Engagement services are highly desired by the detainees. Most of the detainees have had a positive experience with the Islamic Discussion Program and the Level 1 education (Grades 1-3). We have witnessed many of the detainees returning from class and sharing notes and thoughts with their compound members.”
General David H. Petraeus, commanding general of MNF-I, noted that “due to changes in the conduct of detainee operations and programs to prepare detainees for reintegration into society, we have not only gone over 10,000 releases, but our re-internment rate is less than 1 percent.”
Coalition detention programs currently hold just under 21,000 detainees, approximately 17,000 at Camp Bucca near Basrah, and approximately 3,000 at Camp Cropper in Baghdad. There are about a dozen women, just over 300 juveniles, about 200 third country nationals, and about 200 detainees over the age of 60. More than 10,000 detainees have been released so far this year, more than the total from last year of 8,900. We are currently detaining about 30 a day and releasing 45 a day. The average detention time is 330 days.
Coalition Forces are authorized by U.N. Security Resolution 1790 and the Geneva Convention to detain individuals “necessary for imperative reasons of security.” There is a detainee review process in place, which judges security risk, such that at any point in that process, detainees can be retained or released.
Four years ago, Iraqâ€™s Abu Ghraib prison was center-stage amid allegations of detainee abuse, and coalition forces suddenly cast as conquerors instead of liberators, losing the trust of the Iraqi people.
Conscientious decisions and new detainee programs have helped the coalition turn the corner on the road to regaining that lost trust, Multinational Force Iraqâ€™s commander of detainee operations said yesterday in a Baghdad news conference.
â€œToday, we are still trying to regain that trust, and I want to tell you once again there was no justification for what happened at Abu Ghraib,â€ Army Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone told reporters. â€œTrue apologies, though, must be followed by actions which right the initial wrong, and over the past year, we have made great efforts to correct our past mistakes.â€
A multifaceted approach, including providing better health care and being more culturally sensitive, have led to an improved situation for those in detention, Stone said. Assessing detainees to identify and isolate extremists from the general population is an important step that allows moderate detainees to live free from fear and intimidation, he added.
The practice is proving successful. The reduction of detainee-on-detainee violence over the past six months has been dramatic, Stone said. It also has opened doors to engage the more moderate population and address some of the issues that, initially, may have contributed to their detention.
Addressing Social Causes of Insurgency
â€œThey show us that detainees gravitated toward the insurgency because they were underemployed, undereducated, and in need of supplemental sources of income,â€ Stone said. â€œTo address these social problems and to promote good citizenship, we now offer detainees an array of voluntary programs to help serve as a deterrent to insurgent activity.â€
Programs offered to the detainees include education, vocational training, civics, Islamic discussion, and pay-for-work programs that empower moderate detainees and effectively marginalize violent extremists. Among the most important skills detainees can learn are the abilities to read and write, he said.
â€œThrough such programs, we aim to not only peacefully reintegrate moderates into the Iraqi society, but we also encourage them to become willing and active partners in Iraqâ€™s reconstruction,â€ Stone said. â€œThe large number of former detainees who have returned to our facilities to help teach programs shows that we are succeeding.â€
Detainee Population Falling
It seems thatâ€™s the only way most former detainees return to detention centers — as teachers to their fellow Iraqis. The detainee population has fallen from a peak of 26,000 in the summer of 2007, to over 21,000 now.
In fact, as of February, release rates have overtaken intake rates, Stone said.
â€œToday we are releasing, on average, about 50 detainees each day, compared to an average daily intake of only 30 detainees,â€ he said, adding that â€œminiscule re-internmentâ€ rates show the right people are being released.
â€œSince our engagement programs began in earnest last September, we have â€¦ released [nearly] 10,000 detainees, but just 33 have returned to our custody.â€
Transparency during this transformation is key to its success as well, Stone added. Detention facilities have been open to inspection by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights, which also has had private discussions with detainees about facility conditions.
â€œWe also have increasingly opened our gates to the international media from Western newspapers and radio to pan-Arab news outlets and satellite networks,â€ Stone said. â€œWe want people to see â€“ not just to read and not just to hear about â€“ what goes on inside detention.â€
Family Visitation for Detainees
Amid all the changes to improve detainee care and treatment is the realization that detaineesâ€™ families also are affected. Visitation programs are in place at Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca, and on average, more than 2,000 visits occur a week.
In fact, for the many families who canâ€™t reach Camp Bucca, a video-conferencing center has the capability to unite detainees and their loved ones, Stone said.
â€œUltimately, we realize that no matter how much we have revolutionized the conduct of detainee operations over the past year, at the end of the day, detention is still detention,â€ he said, adding that he believes detention is a critical task serving both U.S. and Iraqi interests.
â€œBy prioritizing population protection inside our detention centers,â€ Stone said, â€œwe are ensuring that violent extremists remain isolated â€“ both physically and ideologically. With their marginalization, we can begin to reintegrate the vast majority of detainees who are moderate back into society in a safe and secure manner.â€
The hope is that reintegrated detainees who have participated in training and other programs offered in detention facilities will aid in the creation of a â€œvibrant and a robust civil societyâ€ in Iraq, the general said.
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
U.S. officials decided last year that detainees held in coalition-run facilities in Iraq needed opportunities to voice their concerns and broaden their minds, rather than to just mark time, a senior U.S. military officer posted in Iraq said today.
â€œThe way detention operations used to be conducted here in the country were a strategic risk,â€ Army Brig. Gen. Michael R. Nevin, commander of 177th Military Police Brigade, said in a conference call with military analysts.
â€œBack about in last March and April, there were a lot of violent actions, riots, detainee-on-detainee violence and detainee-on-guard violence going on in the facilities,â€ Nevin recalled. â€œThings were boiling over.â€
Here’s the story the media is too scared to tell, the horrible conditions at Camp Bucca, Iraq.
Airman 1st Class Sarah Coble plays with children Feb 10 who are visiting family and friends detained in the Theater Internment Facility at Camp Bucca, Iraq. Airmen deployed to the 886th ESFS operate the TIF’s vigorous visitation program which houses detainees determined to be a security threat against Iraqi citizens or coalition forces. More than 1,700 friends and family members visit the detainees each week. Airman Coble is a 886th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron member deployed from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Jason McCree)